Benham Rise: Part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

(Source: TV 9, News & Current Affairs, youtube)

Facts and Figures about Benham Plateau.

According to the Wikipedia,

The Benham Plateau, also known as the Benham Rise, is a seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea approximately 250 km (160 mi) east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.

Under the Philippine Sea lie a number of basins including the West Philippine Sea Basin, inside of which is located the Central Basin Fault (CBF).[1] The Benham Plateau is located in the CBF and its basement probably is a micro-continent.[2] Several scientific surveys have been made on the feature to study its nature and its impact on tectonic subduction, including one about its effects on the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The area is a territory of the Philippines which was claimed, as part of its continental shelf, which was then lodged with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on April 8, 2009 and was approved by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012.[3]  (

Geological features[edit]

The map shows the features of the Philippine Sea Plate.

Benham Rise is a submerged extinct volcanic ridge located at 16 degrees 30 minutes N, 124 degrees 45 minutes E off the coast of Luzon, with the size of about 250 km in diameter and rises over 2,000 meters (2 km.) above the sea floor, from below 5,000 meters (5 km.) below sea level to above 3,000 meters (3 km.) below sea level. Its area is close to the Benham Seamount, located at 15 degrees 48 minutes N, 124 degrees 15 minutes E. The precise location is somewhere near the east of the Philippine Trench and near the south of the East Luzon Trench, both of which absorb the subducting force of thePhilippine Sea Plate under the Philippine Mobile Belt,[4] a collage of large blocks of that crust that amalgamated prior to the collision of the Philippine Sea Plate with the Eurasian Plate.[5]

The origin of the landform, along with a fellow landform, the Urdaneta Plateau (a remnant of mantle plume), is identified in one study as at least five sequences of propagating rifts, probably triggered by mantleflowing away from the mantle thermal anomaly.[6] Its presence of the landform disrupts the continuity of this region (known as the Philippine-East Luzon Trench) by continuously colliding with the Sierra Madre mountain range of eastern portion of the island of Luzon. Though it is generally thought that the Philippine Sea Plate is being subducted under the Philippine Mobile Belt, under the rules of tectonic subduction, there appears to be a resistance to this because of the presence of the landform, and instead, the plate is being displaced into the northern portion of Luzon to the west.[7][8]  (

The geophysical features of the plateau may have been the result of an early Miocene collision event between the Benham Rise and the eastern margin of Luzon, which may have also allowed the inception of the NW striking strand of the Philippine fault.[9] These forces may have impacted the shape of the island of Luzon because of the basaltic sea floor resisting the subduction that may have also cause the bending of thePhilippine Fault.[10] The active basins in Central Luzon, which trace an asymmetrical V shape, is the best place to observe recent tectonic evolution of the fault system.(


The landform is presumably named after Admiral Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham (1832–1905) by American surveyors who were the probable discoverers of the geological feature. He was a United States Navyofficer, who served with both the South Atlantic and West Gulf Blockading Squadrons during the American Civil War.[11] There has been speculation in the scientific community about the nature of the landform. Following the major 16 July 1990 Luzon earthquake, scientists reconsidered their fault models and decided it likely that Benham Plateau has similarly displaced the Philippine Fault System to the west.[12] After analysing older models such as that of Pinet and Stephan (1989), scientists reconsidered their fault models. They thought that it is highly likely that the Benham Plateau is still displacing Central Luzon and the Philippine Fault System to the west, which may have had an impact in causing such a catastrophic earthquake. The 20 second to 50 second wave in the 1990 quake that developed a new east-west sub-fault was so strong that it terminated disastrously at the city of Baguio in Benguet, Cordillera. Several scientific surveys, conducted between 2004 and 2008, collected hydrographic data that determined the morphology of the seabed in the region. Additional data from international bathymetric surveys and an analysis of international research projects were collected to support the findings.[13]    (

Benham Rise has been part of the culture of ancient Filipinos. Ancient Catanduanes people have fished and roamed the area long before the colonial era. In fact, it is celebrated in Catandunganons’ folktales, legends and poetry. Today, large percentage of fish caught by Catandunganon comes from Benham Rise. Its local bicol term is called Kalipung-awan (means loneliness in an isolated place).  (

Philippine claim[edit]

Territorial waters of the Philippines. The Benham rise is located directly east of Luzon.

Despite its proximity to the archipelago, the plateau was previously not included in the territory of the Philippines. On 8 April 2009, the Republic of the Philippines lodged a partial territorial waters claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in relation to the continental shelf in the region of Benham Rise.[14] It was submitted as part of petition expanding the archipelago’s baselines and exclusive economic zone through a law that also included other claims involving disputed territories of the Kalayaan Islands (Spratly Islands) and Scarborough Shoal. Although the landform, in itself, is not disputed, the petition still received some criticism inside and outside the country because of its controversial nature.[15] According to the government’s claim, based on a set of guidelines by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the area satisfies the 350-mile constraint line since the outer limits of the continental shelf are located landward of the constraint line, which is located 350 miles from the baselines where the measurement of the breadth of the territorial sea begins.[13] (

The Congress of the Philippines enacted Republic Act No. 9522, also known as the Archipelagic Baselines Law, which is the basis of the claim. According to the document the region is bounded by the Philippine Basin on the north and east, and by Luzon on the west and south. It asserted that, according to scientific data based on seismic, magnetic, other geological features, the Benham Rise is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf. In summary, the baselines, the basis used for delineating the maritime territorial and jurisdictional zones (including the continental shelf), conform with the requirements of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).[13] The claim is only a partial claim since the law that allows the Philippines to expand its territorial boundaries also includes islands in theSouth China Sea.  (

UN Decision[edit]

The Philippines filed its claim for Benham Rise in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The UN has officially approved the claim in April 2012.[3][16][17][18]

(Source: Rappler hosted by Maria Ressa, youtube)


According to the report mentioned by Pia Hontiveros, Benham Rise is a 13 million hectare sea bed off the coast of Aurora Province, Luzon, Philippines, that may potentially contain steel producing minerals and natural gas.


UPDATES dated March 15, 2017…the following news item taken from the website of CNN Philippines revealed that China respects the rights of the Philippine Government to its claim over the continental shelf at Benham Rise.  It might be recalled that the continental shelf of the Benham Rise is contiguous to the mainland of Luzon, thus making it a rightful undersea “territory” of the Republic of the Philippines as approved by the United Nations in 2012.  Here’s the Chinese press release and available on-line through CNN-Philippines’ website…here is the link…thank you.


UPDATES  dated March 21, 2017.

The Philippines’ Legal Advisor based in The Hague, Netherlands, in the person of Paula Defensor-Knack stated on her FB page this opinion on Benham Rise, hereunder:

“This is the correct opinion on Benham Rise. I made it for Die Hard Fans of MDS so they know what to say when they meet an ignorant opponent online…
Benham Rise is not disputed territory. It is underwater, the ridge of a dormant volcano. The Spratlys on the other hand is disputed territory, it is a reef/ low elevation maritime feature. The ownership of the Spratleys is disputed because the arbitration tribunal could not rule on ownership of maritime features. No one owns Benham Rise but since it is continental shelf, it is in our economic zone though the continental shelf can be beyond the EEZ.”  (Exclusive Economic Zone)

Updates on January 24, 2018.

On May 16, 2017, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed the Executive Order No. 25 renaming the Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.  We would like to request our readers to refer back to the opinions of Atty. Paula Defensor-Knack, the Philippines’ Legal Advisor to The Hague, The Netherlands, regarding Benham Rise.  Her opinion is stated in the previous update.  It says:

“Benham Rise is not disputed territory. It is underwater, the ridge of a dormant volcano. The Spratlys on the other hand is disputed territory, it is a reef/ low elevation maritime feature. The ownership of the Spratleys is disputed because the arbitration tribunal could not rule on ownership of maritime features. No one owns Benham Rise but since it is continental shelf, it is in our economic zone though the continental shelf can be beyond the EEZ.” (Exclusive Economic Zone).

Earthniversity shares this opinion and therefore it is safe to conclude that the area which is within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone can be “guarded”  by the Philippine Government as its “protected food supply exclusive zone”.

In one occasion, China asks the permission of the Philippine Government to conduct research on Benham Rise, the area that is beyond the Philippines’ EEZ.  Benham Rise or the Philippine Rise is “not a disputed territory”, according to Atty. Paula Defensor-Knack.

In one instance, the Philippine Government had asked China to allow the fishermen to fish in the West Philippine Sea to which China agreed.  This area is a disputed territory because of the land mass appearing on the sea.  Many countries claim islands and islets of this disputed area.


The Earthniversity does not own the articles, facts and figures stated in this post as well as the videos posted herein. The facts and figures about the Benham Plateau or Benham Rise had been taken from the Wikipedia.  The link is herein stated for your reference.  (


Thank you to Rappler’s Ms. Maria Ressa for the video they posted on youtube.

Thank you to TV 9 News and Current Affairs and Pia Hontiveros for the video they uploaded on youtube.

Thank you to The Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

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  • For discussion purposes only.

Updated January 24, 2018.

Tubbataha Reef: A Long Reef Exposed At Low Tide

Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Since the discovery of the  Tubbataha in the late 1970s, it has been recognized as one of the most remarkable coral reefs on our planet. The CNN travel website,, ranks it as among the top eight dive sites in the world.

According to Wikipedia:

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Filipino: Bahurang Tubbataha) is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle ofSulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls (named the North Atoll and South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef covering a total area of 97,030 hectares (239,800 acres; 374.6 sq mi). It is located 150 kilometers (93 mi) southeast of Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan province.[2] The uninhabited islands and reefs are part of the island municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, located roughly 130 kilometers (81 mi) to the northeast of the reef.[2]

In December 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reefs National Park as a World Heritage Site as a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons, and two coral islands.[3] In 1999, Ramsar listed Tubbataha as one of the Wetlands of International Importance.[4] In 2008, the reef was nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.[5]

The national park and the rest of the Philippine archipelago is part of the Coral Triangle, recognized as a center of marine biodiversity containing 75% of the described coral species and 40% of the world’s reef fish.[6] The area is under a grave threat due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices.[7] Research of scientists visiting the reefs since the 1980s revealed that the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whalespecies, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.

Because of its isolated location, Tubbataha can only be visited on a liveaboard boat. Divers can experience the reefs’ dramatic underwater terrain, awe-inspiring biodiversity and encounter large marine animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays.

Tubbataha is a combination of two Samal words which are “tubba” and “taha” which means, “a long reef exposed at low tide”.

Source: Youtube by DazzlingPhilippines.

As a visiting diver, you will play an important role in Tubbataha’s future, as your conservation fees provide the funds needed to protect the park from illegal exploitation.

(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim) March 20, 2013.

According to a report from Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer of Common Dreams, the United States has agreed to pay the $1.9 million in compensation for the damage to the reefs caused by U.S. Navy minesweeper.  And then, as early as the first quarter of 2015, local news in the Philippines carried a banner story about the Philippines receiving the amount for the rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reefs. 

According to Germanos, the USS Guardian rammed into the reefs and got stranded there for the next two months and had to be cut into pieces to be extricated.  This happened in January 2013.

A UNESCO  World Heritage site, the park website describes it as being at the heart of the global center of marine biodiversity.


Hereunder is a video about Going to Tubbataha Reefs, uploaded on youtube by Chris Hewett.


According to the website of Tubbataha Reefs, there is one Manta Rays that is a resident of Tubbataha reefs.  Here’s the article:

Reef Manta Rays

Philippines’ first record of Manta alfredi

In 2012, using data collected by research volunteer consultant Dr Terry Aquino, marine scientist Dr Will White confirmed that the Manta Rays in Tubbataha are Manta alfredi, a reef based species, rather than Manta birostris, a pelagic species roaming the open seas.

This is exciting since there was previously no record of Manta alfredi in the Philippines.

The Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) is found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. However, actual populations seem to be sparsely distributed.

Manta alfredi is considered “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List Status and an average of 30% decline in its population is suspected. They have a low reproductive rate with females bearing a single pup only once in two to three years.

Mantas are majestic creatures, loved by scuba divers. They are highly sensitive to marine conditions and are therefore an important indicator of the health of the ocean ecosystems.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, in the township of Cagayancillo, a part of the Province of Palawan.

The website further stated that “the park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle – the global center of marine biodiversity.  Scientists have been visiting these reefs since the 1980s, and their research has shown that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world), 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins & whales, 100 species of birds, and also nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles.”

For additional information, please check this link:

How To Get There?

How to get here? You must go to Manila to book a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Once you’ve arrived there, dive operators will gladly guide you to the pier where the boat going to the reef is waiting. It’s a 10-hour ride to the park and usually, the boat drivers will suggest that you’ll leave at around after dinner so that you arrive there by early morning the next day. It may seem that the travel takes a lot of time before you reach the reefs but I tell you, it’s worth it.

If you’re a diver and you haven’t been to the mystical Tubbataha Reefs then you’re missing out a big part of your diving life. It’s the best place to be.


Since the Manta Alfredi is sensitive to marine conditions, it is, therefore, good to know, that for as long as these Manta Rays are present in Tubbataha, we can conclude that the reefs’ ecosystems are healthy.

The Management of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park had been actively engaged in various activities that allowed scuba divers and tourists to explore the reefs but on top of their agenda was the protection and conservation of Tubbataha.

For more topics about the Tubbataha Reefs, please visit this link:

Map showing the Tubbataha Reefs.  Located in the middle of Sulu Sea between Palawan and Panay.


Earthniversity is thanking its various sources of information and videos used in this post.  Thank you very much.

Strategic Planning Workshop on the Protection & Conservation of the Coral Reefs (Lecture # 9)

Source: Art Vanchaam of Thailand @ Vimeo

Earthniversity would like to present a new topic entitled:  Strategic Planning Workshop on the Protection & Conservation of the Coral Reefs.  This is a global issue and as wide as the extent that the coral reefs are present in any part of the world.  But, Earthniversity attempts to tackle this topic, although it might be boring to some.

Based on our motto “Everyone thinking globally and acting locally”, this global issue can be addressed locally by people in the community where a specific coral reef exists. So, by the local people doing their share of the global responsibility, their activities or observable behavior, to protect and conserve the coral reefs can make a difference in the world.  If everyone in the community will get involve and the local government manifests their  encouragement to the local people to help protect and conserve the coral reefs, then they can do something for their local community that will have a big impact too, in the global community.

This lecture is also a response from one of our readers.  The need of any LGU or Local Government Unit for a comprehensive plan on the protection and conservation of the coral reefs can be addressed if they have the tool or the document from which they can base their activities to attain this goal – protection and conservation of the coral reefs.

This activity is solely for the enrichment of the local government’s initiatives on the protection and conservation of the coral reefs.

This is also a support mechanism to implement, in the local level, the national laws governing the protection and conservation of the coral reefs.  In a way, this lecture is designed to plan a strategy in the effective implementation of national and local laws on the protection and conservation of the coral reefs.

In this activity, the Strategic Planning Workshop on the Protection and Conservationof the Coral Reefs, the various sectors of the community will be actively involved.  From their level, a plan shall be formulated to protect and conserve the coral reef.  The Workshop will, therefore, result in the community’s plan on how to protect and conserve their coral reef.

The Local Government Unit will be the implementing arm of this community’s plan.  This will also result to the community’s ownership of the Strategic Plan, thus, their involvement is strengthened to protect and conserve the coral reefs.  I suggest that the slogan of this workshop shall be:  “Our Coral Reefs, Our Future. Let Us Protect & Conserve It.”

Source: Art Vanchaam of  Thailand @ Vimeo


Before the Workshop, the following shall be prepared:

1.  Facts and figures about the coral reefs.  It might be possible that the coral reefs might be so wide that it might cover several towns, islands, or Local Government Units.  For example, the Tubbataha Reefs is within the territorial waters of the Province of Palawan. While the over-all protection and conservation is within the realm of the national government and the provincial government , the Local Government Units where the Tubbataha Reefs is a part of, must also be involved in its protection and conservation and the gathering of data and information that could help provide the bases for whatever programs and projects need to be implemented to protect and conserve the reefs.

The following are the sources of facts and figures, to wit:

1.1.  Department of Environment and Natural Resources

1.2.  Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources

1.3.  Department of Agriculture

1.4.  Office of the Coast Guard

1.5.  Socio-Economic Profile of the LGUs

1.6.  Environment Code of both the National Government and LGU

1.7.  Comprehensive Land Use Plan of the National Government, the Provincial Government, of the Region, and the LGUs

1.8.  Annual Reports of the National Economic and Development Authority, National Government; the Regional Annual Report and the LGUs Annual Report

1.9.  National Development Plan; Regional Development Plan; Provincial, City and Municipal Development Plan

1.10. Other available sources of data.

Pre-StratPlan Requirements

1.  The Training/Workshop Design

1.1. Objectives

1.2. Methodology

1.3. Topics & Resource Persons and Workshop Facilitators

1.4. Supplies, Materials & Equipment (LCD Projector, Computer, Laptop, Screen, Overhead Projector, Service Vehicle, Gasoline Allowance, Training Kits and Hand-outs, cartolina, manila paper for workshop, etc.

1.5. Venue, Accommodation of Participants, Food & Catering, etc.

1.6. Other items that I missed to list.

Training/Workshop Proper

1.  Registration

2.  Opening Ceremonies

3.  Introduction of Participants

4.  Leveling of Expectations

5.  Presentation of T/W Objectives vis-a-vis Participants’ Expectations

Source:  D. J. Clark video @ Vimeo, text and voice over by Jofelle Tesoro.  Interview with Angelique Songco, dive master and Director of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan


Strategic Planning Workshop Session

Participants will be asked to answer or discuss the following questions:

1.  Who Are We?

2.  Where Are We Now?

3.  Where Are We Going?

4.  What Are The Obstacles And Strengths To Reach Our Goals?

Analysis of SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

5.  How Are We Going To Get There?

6.  Group Discussions

6.1.  Fine tuning of the answers to each question.  Prioritize the answers according to importance.

6.2.  Presentation & Critiquing

6.3.  Writing/Preparation of the Final Output

7.  Formulation of Action Plan

7.1.  Activities/Programs/Projects

7.2.  Targets

7.3.  Strategies

7.4.  Budget Requirements

7.5.   Persons/Personnel Responsible

7.6.   Time Frame

7.7.    Action Taken

Note:  You can revise this part of the Design to suit your specific need.

8.  Preparation of the Document on the Workshop output for presentation to the Local Government Unit’s Local Development Council for their comments. To be done by the Technical Working Group/TWG in collaboration with the Workshop Secretariat.

9.  Presentation of the Strategic Plan on the Protection & Conservation of the Coral Reefs to the community through Community Consultation.  The community will be asked to add their inputs to this StratPlan.

-10.  Preparation of the Document after the Community Consultation.  This will be presented to the Local Development Council for review and approval through a Resolution.

11.  Preparation of the Final Document on the Strategic Plan on the Protection & Conservation of the Coral Reefs and for approval of the Local Chief Executive – Governor or Mayor.

12.  The LCE  will submit this StratPlan to the Local Council for their review and approval through a Council Resolution.

13.  Implementation.  Once approval of the Council is done, the implementing agency, which has been identified during the workshop and during meetings with the Local Development Council and also mentioned in the StratPlan submitted to the Local Council, will now convene the Committee to formulate their implementation plan. Most probably, the Chair is the Environment Officer with members coming from selected Local Government’s Departments with direct or implied participation in the implementation of the Plan.  For example:

Chair       – Environment Officer


1. Representative of the Local Council representing the Environment Committee.

2. Representative of the LCE.

3.  Chair of the Local Development Council.

4.  The Legal Officer of the LGU.

5.  Local Representative of the DENR, Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Agriculture, and other National Agencies already identified during the Workshop.

6.  Other LGUs, Agencies, Persons or Groups to be identified during the Workshop or by the LGU.

7.   The Secretariat, preferably the Planning & Development Coordinator of the LGU.

Monitoring & Evaluation

The Committee created for this purpose will schedule a regular monitoring and evaluation team of the implementation of the StratPlan.  A monitoring and evaluation form should be designed using several indicators for easy interpretation of the data.

14.  Updating of the StratPlan.  A timeline shall be decided by the Committee setting the schedule of the Update of the StratPlan.  For example, yearly or every three (3) years.

15.  Sustainability Measures.  A discussion on the sustainability of the StratPlan shall be part of the final document so that the implementation will go on even if new set of local government officials will take over the reins of the local government.

Source:  Nick Utchin of Bangkok Thailand @ Vimeo


This is just a draft or a suggested format of the Strategic Planning Workshop on the Protection & Conservation of the Coral Reefs.  Most of the activities included in this StratPlan were based on my personal experience as a technical writer on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Environment Code and Solid Waste Management Plan of a city in the Philippines; as a  city planning and development officer of a Local Government Unit, and as planning and development facilitator of a foreign government aid agency’s project in the Philippines.

In this draft, I have included all that are supposed to be done but the way it should be done and implemented may vary from one LGU to another.  Meaning, you improve this to suit  your needs.  If this is helpful to your local experience, please send us a word.


Earthniversity would like to thank the various owners of videos used in this post. Specifically, we would like to thank the following:

1. Art Vanchaam videos #1 and #2 from Vimeo.

2. D. J. Clark Video from Vimeo.  Text & Voice Over by Jofelle Tesoro.  Interview with Angelique Songco, dive master and Director of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan.

3.  Nick Utchin Video from Vimeo.

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